from Birmingham


8.39am, Sunday

So I’m in Birmingham, it’s fucking cold, I have no money and my train doesn’t leave til 10.19. I have chosen Starbucks over Macdonalds which is odd for me even when there are no other choices. The music is surprisingly ok/inoffensive (Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’, but sung by someone else right now) and I’m sitting in the window looking out at the other poor cold buggers who have things to do on a Sunday morning. Despite all of this, I am incredibly chipper.

I last night slept on a sofa in the home of an IT teacher in a penthouse apartment in the centre of the city. Couchsurfing is undoubtedly one of the best things in the world and I’m constantly glad it exists/enthused by my experiences with it. To be able to put a last minute message on the internet asking for somewhere to stay the next day, and receive an answer from someone totally warm and welcoming and genuine, and then go and stay in their house never ceases to amaze me and restores my faith in human beings every time. There was another blog post I wanted to write about that (it might have been called, ‘Why the internet is great’, or ‘Things that are good about the world’) but it will probably just stay on the list of things I haven’t written.

[Thanks thanks thanks Mash in Birmingham for your sofa!]

I’d forgotten that Birmingham has a MUJI – not that it’s open – but that makes it cool, right?

This weekend I have been taking part in sean burn and Mike Layward’s DIY9 workshop, ‘the 1892 Walsall anarchist bomb plot’, which will continue today. Walsall definitely doesn’t have a MUJI but it does have a great big nice art gallery and the conversations are interesting. We are a varied bunch, 8 of us including sean and Mike, and don’t seem to be achieving much - if that is important - but there’s certainly something good about discussing anarchism in an art gallery with strangers. Apart from one friendly & familiar face by name of Kalila, the participants are all vastly more experienced artists, activists, human beings than myself and I feel a little out of my depth around some of the political references being bandied around; in a good way. This is making my brain stretch, which is perfect.

The Walsall Bomb Plot is a fascinating little story too – like a kind of ‘Midlands Film Noir’ – where a bunch of anarchists at the local social club are set up by a buffoonish French agent provocateur named Coulon (in employ of the Met) to produce bombs, (which they fail to do properly) and then get arrested for it by a copper called Melville, with a lopsided moustache and a questionable amount of honesty. A Pamphlet written in 1900 by David Nicoll begins:

 

Romance is not dead yet even in this age of matter-of-fact. It is still around us – is everywhere. Quit the narrow path as chalked out by Podsnap and Co., the proper commercial existence of rising, shaving, and starting punctually to the City every morning, and you will find romance on every side of you. Romance and novelty there are, though sometimes the delightful vision comes to an abrupt termination, changing suddenly like a lovely face in an opium vision, to something horrible and devilish.

This was the fate of some friends of ours, who dreamed of regenerating the world, and found themselves, thanks to the machinations of a police spy, doomed to a long sentence of penal servitude. Let us tell the strange story of modern life. The facts are remarkable enough, though true.[…]

 

Which is, in my opinion, a brilliant introduction to anything. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen today.

That is all for now. It is 9.50am, they are playing the Tallest Man on Earth, and I will finish up this coffee, put my coat on, shuffle back to the train station and do my best to ignore the fact that I have written this blog post instead of spending the last hour working on the Clerke and Joy Arts Council application.